Review : Gus Gus - 24-7
ThephoenixLetting the music take control is a primary tenet of the dance-floor ethos — but that's only because dance music is by nature submissive. Even at its most sonically rich, dance music remains a utility, and even when it demands your attention, it does so in service to your good times. Although Icelandic trio Gus Gus (pared down substantially from their nine-piece days a dozen years ago) are working very, very hard on 24/7, like any esteemed establishment, they're not going to serve just anybody. Their origins found them functioning as a populous, populist eclec-tronica juggernaut, but the six tracks that make up the 50 minutes of 24/7 have a list of demands.
Reinstated vocalist Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson (who hasn't sung with them since '99) might function as a force field for some, his crystal croon pining over emotions that "echo in emptiness" from within a halo of reverb through the long, lonely beginning of opener "Thin Ice." He rhymes "wacky" and "tacky" in "On the Job" and sings "If I can't find love, I guess I'll hate" on "Hateful." But there's confidence within his flagrant vulnerability, goofiness within his histrionic austerity. And despite all these lyrical dalliances, there's one of the best house albums of the year somewhere in these songs — you just have to agree to their terms....full text
PopmattersForget for a moment that Iceland’s wealth has evaporated like steam from a geyser. For before the crisis, GusGus represented everything about the country for someone who’s never visited it: rigorous experimenters conveying the kind of abject isolation that presents itself in a vast windswept landscape like their own. Yet, rather refreshingly, they did it with all the conscious whimsy of Kraftwerk, rather than the suicidal intensity of Sigur Rós.
Lazily lumped in with the Sugarcubes, they were actually the Velvet Underground had it been fronted by DJ Tiesto. Their sonic renditions made you dance without assaulting your body into motion, and they fulfilled the cliché of Scandinavian pop to the hilt by leaving plenty of echoing crevasses for you to lose yourself in. Their later work tended to render glacial progressions, Steve Reich-style: no matter how pumped up with adrenaline and whatever else you were, you were party to a slow-burning bash because the night was Arctic long. In other words, their music provided you with the opposite of instant gratification. But like good, long-lasting sex, the reward would be immeasurable.
When we first heard of them in 1995, GusGus were a whopping collective of 12 with silly names like President Bongo (aka Stephan Stephensen). Their first intention, spearheaded by filmmakers Stefán Árni and Siggi Kjartansson, was to make weird films. But the entry of DJ Herb Legowitz and programmer Biggi Thórarinsson, as well as singer/songwriters Daníel Ágúst, Hafdís Huld, and Magnús Jónsson into the group steered this veritable nucleus of creativity into music-making too. Before long GusGus were indie darlings of British 4AD label, releasing debut LP, Polydistortion (1997), which had all the ghoulish restraint of Portishead’s Dummy and wry sample selection of Coldcut. To boot, vocalists Agust and Kjartansson spun the album with an American-accented indifference that made them the envy of the effortlessly cool. After the critical success of Polydistortion, members like Agust and Emilíana Torrini went on to enjoy fairly notable solo careers. Torrini, for one, is best known for her contribution to the soundtrack of (what else?) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers....full text
MusicomhGus Gus have had more record labels than most people have had hot dinners, but throughout they've proved their worth with music of vitality and originality.
The move to Kompakt coincides with another change in approach. Initially the tracklisting looks sparse, with only six new compositions, but each is a substantial piece of work that somehow fits in with the Kompakt approach.
Lean, mean and keen - those are the soundbites fans can take away with them. There is more techno at the root of the band's sound on this occasion, but the soul still remains. The opening track splits neatly into two parts, an atmospheric opener that proclaims "I feel like dancing", before picking up the beat as if to order, its sleek production prowling forward like a black panther.
There are reminders of the fine album from DJ Hell in the darkly turning Hateful, where the barbed lyrics and minimally voiced beats give a stark, night time city picture. There are more comforting, space age beats that work really well in the loping On The Job, an effective track stretched out to the limits of its capability. As in the other five, the band take their time to really set the mood, the beats and pads carefully voiced and co-ordinated....full text
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